OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Researchers in Oklahoma say they may have found a key to preventing multiple sclerosis.

Scientists from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation say they have found a link between ultra-processed foods and autoimmune diseases.

Scott Plafker, Ph.D., and Katarzyna Zyla-Jackson, Ph.D., found that a high-fat, low-carb and fiber-enriched diet prevented the onset of MS symptoms in mouse models of the disease.

The same diet also reduced symptoms in mice who were already showing signs of the disease.

“Genetic changes happen very slowly – just a little bit per generation – so that can’t account for the increased incidence in autoimmune diseases we’ve seen over the last several decades,” Plafker said. “Beyond improved diagnostics, that leaves environmental factors as a primary driver of this increase, and at least for MS, we believe dietary changes may be a leading culprit.”

MS impacts nearly 1 million Americans.

Officials say it occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulating layer that protects nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The resulting inflammation can cause vision issues, muscle spasms, tremors, and paralysis.

In the OMRF study, scientists found that a ketogenic diet protected the mice against the loss of vision and motor function skills.

“A keto diet can’t simply replace medications that are already working well for MS, but our study indicates that it appears to be a helpful supplement for those medications,” said Zyla-Jackson, a registered dietician. 

Now, scientists are working to determine why the keto diet reduces and prevents MS symptoms.

“A keto diet can be hard to stick to, especially in the beginning, because it’s such a shift from the fast and ultra-processed foods that many Americans have become accustomed to,” Plafker said. “Understanding what makes it so impactful in MS may open the door to developing supplements or therapies that mimic its effects for patients.”